Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Unraveling Plan

Clarity is a curious thing.

While cause and effect relationships are probably infinitely more complex, there is a deepening sense that the schismatic and belligerent agendas across the Anglican Communion are beginning to sour in strange and unexpected ways. The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops statement last week raised a renewed standard of internal integrity and charitable language towards those who are our greatest detractors. The response has been less than charitable, but far from unified. The clarity of the HoB's statement itself seems now to be shining light into previously dark corners of half-hidden agendas and bullying, sending some scurrying for cover and not finding very much of it, and yet others having to face up to the reality of their words and threats.

Real concerns are emerging over the plotting process that led to the form the Primates' Communiqué took. Fr. Jake has just posted this rather disturbing witness of the Primate of Mexico. The Primates' credibility as a body is taking some serious hits even from within.

Results of the listening process, called for nearly ten years ago by the same Lambeth Resolution that has been so ballyhooed in recent years, 1998.I.10, has resulted in a wide variety of responses from the provinces of the Anglican Communion. There is clear indication of the priority now being given for pastoral care for the dignity of gays and lesbians in many provinces -- a step forward, perhaps. By contrast, the glaringly uncharitable and damning view of the Church of Nigeria is now posted in all of its ugly glory for the world to see -- including Nigeria's House of Bishops' and Primate's support for the pending anti-gay legislation so roundly condemned internationally. CANA churches in this country, under the authority now of the Church of Nigeria, are out of explanations for householding with this point-of-view.

Thinking Anglicans has a thorough round-up here.

It appears to me now that the Communion is not divided so neatly that a schism over human sexuality is inevitable or would, even if it came to pass, result in any clear delineations. In fact, it would probably be a gargantuan mess. Images of masses of Anglicans charging over the hill in the name of their true Gospel give way to images of an unruly and angry mob. Perhaps that's appropriate for coming Holy Week.

Adding to the messiness is the just-announced attempt of the vestry of a large parish in Colorado to pull their community into CANA, and bringing back a rector, The Rev. Don Armstrong, at the helm again -- following a three month inhibition as accusations of his misuse of finances were investigated. With this attempted departure, the Diocese of Colorado will certainly and sadly have their hands full, but Armstrong does not lend credibility to the CANA cause, nor does he make a good character reference for the cause of those seeking schism. Fleeing to CANA effectively attempts to evade his accountability, on the ecclesiastical side at least, to what is now a substantial charge of malfeasance.

Dr. Ephraim Radner, closely allied with Armstrong, has been pushed hard over his connections with the Institute for Religion and Democracy and offers an emotional response to the House of Bishops meeting that sounds thoughtful but doesn't appear to me to be really rooted in fact. If anything, his pleading at Camp Allen at best effected very little for the cause, and at worst only helped the House of Bishops look more closely at the scheming and machinations of the Network in conjunction with the Global South Primates. Katherine Grieb's insightful witness to the Covenant in light of the Communiqué at the House of Bishops meeting stole the show, shining significant light on the scurrilous plots afoot.

Update: Fr. Jake has a round-up of a number of important documents that highlight the history of the plotting.

Jim Naughton is right: the credibility of the Covenant process, which Grieb and Radner helped author in the name of unity, is now on the line. So is that of the Anglican Communion Institute, which Armstrong led and of which Radner is a part.

The Network leadership remains oddly quiet. (That might or might not last long.) Apparently there was not serious consideration given to the potential for such a clear and resounding statement from our House of Bishops. . . or perhaps now that the game has been called, it will be time to play the much threatened departure card. . . but to where? With lawsuits over property churning and the potential for others looming, nothing is looking all that rosy right now, and from this end, it seems the Network is not as organized in thinking or direction as once thought. More unhelpful to their cause is that some old Network allies in the House of Bishops voted for last week's statements and have been singing its praises since, not to mention the praises of our new Presiding Bishop who shows more and more gracious colors.

And, in the light of the listening process report, the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a mildly surprising sort of appeal for the safety of lesbians and gays in churches across the Anglican Communion. It is a clear achievement of understatement, and not terribly compelling. But it is enough to cast at least a little more doubt on the Church of Nigeria's position. I wonder how Archbishop Akinola will respond. More threats, quite frankly, would fit the pattern thus far.

Clarity on the part of our House of Bishops helped bring some health back to the Communion. Bullies, in good Anglican fashion, are being gently hemmed in. Christians are being asked to speak to each other honestly with charity more worthy of Christ rather than resort to threats, escapism, or coercive power. And mutual accountability is being claimed and offered where mutual accountability is due.

This is, of course, far from over. And there are surely ugly days yet ahead. . .

But now we see the schismatic plan as it begins to unfold. . .

Or unravel might be a better word.


Jared Cramer said...

i think unraveling is indeed the most appropriate term.

nice roundup and summary. thanks.

Anonymous said...

jtbmeppbEvangelicals worried about the direction of TEC have reacted in different ways. Some have simply left for other churches. Those seeking an anglican future have had two main options. The "outside strategy" has been to join AMiA, CANA or perhaps directly link themselves link to another province overseas. The vast majority of groups leaving TEC have left their property behind. AMiA in particular has had a focus on planting new churches.
Those taking the "inside strategy" have sought to network within TEC , seeking either "insulation' provided by TEC or intervention by the AC.
There has been occasional tension between groups taking these two paths, and at least ome court case.
If there is unravelling going on (pace Jared) it may be that the "outside strategy" appears to have been gaining ground over the alternative. The latest writings by Ephraim Radner are evidence of this.
It is worth noting that one aspect of the primatial vicar plan that your HoB found distasteful was an attempt to bring CANA and AMiA into a structure linked to TEC.
To my mind perhaps the most significant outcome of the HoB statement will be the continued existance of church structures within the US linked to other anglican provinces.
While property questions will attract attention in the next little while, they not determine the future in my view.
If these fresh expressions of anglicanism in the US can plant and grow new churches they will have a future, one not defined mostly by opposition to TEC, and consisting mostly of churches which were never part of it. This question will not be decided quickly. it will take time to find out if CANA/AMiA have the ability to grow themselves a future or not.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

An excellent review of the present situation.